Did you like to go to school when you were a child?
When I was a child I enjoyed school. I really did. At that time, school was –I guess you could say- very fun. Every classroom…it was teachers trying to set up games that were fun.
When did it stop being fun?
It stopped being fun around seventh grade. I didn’t feel like I needed it anymore. I thought it wasn’t helpful.
Why did you think that?
Well, in the neighborhood I grew up in, the majority of jobs that were available for individuals like us didn’t call for a high school diploma or GED.
What kinds of jobs were available to “people like you”?
Low-end jobs and neighborhood jobs like tree services and landscaping. In other words, manual labor jobs.
And you didn’t think schooling could be the way out of this?
I knew it wasn’t. So many before me have tried, but they went right back at the same place, the same neighborhood.
Well, I mean, people don’t like change.
When did you drop out of school?
Fall 2003. Around that time I was having trouble in school and out of school. I was in a couple of fights within school and thought: “Why stay in school?” I was doing the same things in school that I was also doing on the streets.
Do you remember the day you stopped going to school?
Yes. Around that time I was already broken. School wasn’t filling the void, so I found other means outside of school to cope.
Why were you broken?
Well, there were multiple things. My mother and father were having problems, my father was addicted to crack cocaine, I lived in a very broken down neighborhood, but the worst of all is what happened to me when I was a little younger. I was sexually abused by a family member.
So, you never went back to school after 2003?
No. Not until I was locked up.
What happened to your education when you got locked up?
I went to school while I was locked up, but felt that I didn’t need a GED. So, I went just to pass time.
How was school like in the facility?
The majority of people are only there to hang out with their buddies. There’s about 20 altogether and one teacher. So, it’s very hard for those who wanna learn to concentrate. There are big foldout tables with chairs pushed up to them. It’s loud, very hot…
So, not an environment conducive to learning?
Did you get your GED?
Yes, but not at first. It took me years to realize that I needed to change my whole thinking of life. About five years ago I saw I wasn’t getting anywhere with the things I was doing. So I decided that I would do something that I never thought I would need. At first, I took the pre-GED and failed it. Then, I decided to take it again. I passed, but then didn’t pass the GED.
When did you pass your GED?
How did you feel when you learned that you passed it?
I felt ecstatic and very happy. I finally accomplished something that I always needed…but I wasn’t aware of it.
Besides the GED, what other programs are available to you?
Well, drug and alcohol programs, anger management, victim awareness, ADAPT (reentry)… That’s it.
Have you taken advantage of them?
Yes, I have taken advantage of a few anger management programs.
Did you find them helpful?
Actually, they made me angry. [Chuckles] I felt they weren’t very helpful programs, because they didn’t offer any assistance of how to overcome anger. They were more guiding me towards what they thought I was meant to say.
What have you done since then?
Well, I recently started a paralegal program through Blackstone Career Institute. I am moving on to my 13th exam.
Do you enjoy the paralegal program?
Yes, I do enjoy it. But it’s a very slow process. But I’m learning very valuable things that will help me in the future.
What is one thing you learned from your paralegal studies?
I've learned that judges are bound in most cases to apply the rules and principles that were applied in former decisions of similar cases. It's referred to as the rule of stare decisis, which means "standing by the decision ". So no judge really takes into consideration the person, nor their past or the things that have been done to them. They just go off of a case that was somewhat like it. Judges have their hands tied because of precedents and don’t/can’t use their own judgment. But maybe that changes in the future.
Speaking about the future, what are your plans in regards to education?
My first goal is to complete my paralegal program and to continue on the advanced part of it. After completing it, I want to study child psychology.
Why child psychology?
While I was younger, nobody tried to understand or help me, so I wanna learn what I can to hopefully one day be a positive figure to kids that were just like me.